April 5th, 2015

a-man-in-the-moon

For Once The Stars And The Universe Align...

For twenty plus years we've been in West Michigan, I cannot tell you how often the West Michigan weather has conspired against me seeing anything of an astronomical nature (DW) (LJ). So with a lunar eclipse coming up this morning with the setting Moon and the rising Sun -- it seemed impossible. Still, Mrs. Dr. Phil had a workshop at GVSU today, so we got up at the normal work time. And at 6:40am, I was able to peek out the bedroom window and lo and behold, there was a chunk of the Moon missing.

Even better, it turned out that the neighbors to the west didn't seem to be in the way. Now it was a race between the darkening Moon and the Sun coming up as the Moon went down.

Once I was assembled for the day, with the leg brace and all, I dragged out the heavy duty Nikon D1H. It goes up to 1600 ISO sensitivity -- and not too bad in color. More importantly, the 24-120mm f3.5-5.6G VR AF-NIKKOR. At 120mm (180mm FX equivalent) that's the longest lens I have right now with VR Vibration Reduction. I ended up shooting at 1/20th of a second and 1/25th. The heavier mass of the D1H over the D100 adds to the stability. No point in putting on the 70-300mm non-VR or the giant 200-600mm f9.5 AIs Zoom-NIKKOR (DW) (LJ), without a tripod.

The significance of VR is that the usual thumb of rule states that the slowest handheld shutter speed you can hand hold is 1/(focal length), so that should be 1/120th of a second for a 120mm lens. We're roughly 2½ f-stops slower than that here, with the lens wide open. But this lens promises 2-3 stops of extra stability with the little "jiggle" elements in the VR system, compensating for the movement of my hand. I could have set the D1H to HI-2 (6400 ISO) and gained two shutter speeds, but the cost due to noise in the image wasn't something I wanted to try. Someday I'll spring for a D3 or D4 FX fullframe or a later generation DX digital camera which work better at high ISOs -- But This Is Not That Day.

(Long ago, I was the master of "available darkness" handholding, and 1/20th of a second at 120mm would have been no real problem -- one or two out of four shots should have been usable. Alas, between my leg and less stamina, I cannot hold that steady any more. I'm always shocked when I look at the EXIF data from shots with either of my VR lenses and see "how low I can go" and get great or acceptable images.)


Picture 4. Leaning on side of garage, looking just south of west. 120mm 1/25th sec f5.6, tweaked focus manually. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Inset of full size version above at 300%. With the full moon at max totality some time later -- unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are slow and long -- you would not see this configuration of light and dark at this hour just at sunrise. As an interesting aside, TIME Magazine was running a live stream of the lunar eclipse, and the images from the Australian observatory were reversed. As they should be. (Turn your head upside down to know why. I am not talking about the normal telescope reversal, they had already corrected for that.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

I did no corrections to the images -- no brightness, contrast or color adjustments. One thing I did do was switch the meter from centerweighted to spot. Probably the first time I've used any of the Nikons so equipped in spot mode (F4s, Kodak DCS Pro SLR/n, D1, D1X, D1H, D100).

These are not great pictures, but they are the first time I've tried to take a lunar eclipse picture with a modern camera ever. Lens too short, only a 2.7MP image, a lot of noise at 1600 ISO from a first generation DSLR. But I got the picture. Yay me.

Here's the rest of the set:


Picture 1. All the first three were at 1/20th of a second and 120mm, autofocus. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Picture 2. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Picture 3. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Anyway, given that most of the show happened later, below the horizon, I am pretty pleased to have been up, dressed and equipped on an early Saturday morning and had anything to show for it.

Dr. Phil
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Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr-phil-nikon-f3-1983

The Smell of Spring is Dirt

As long as I had to get out the Nikon D1H and the 24-120mm VR lens to shoot the lunar eclipse this morning (DW) (LJ), AND Saturday was destined to be the only mostly blue sky sunny day for most of the next week, I decided to go out in the Blazer and see what was up.

Driving east on Warner, I started passing fields which had just been disced. Ready for planting Real Soon Now. And so as the post title above suggests, the air was rich with the smell of newly turned earth, the dirt smelling like early spring.


There's this cool farm on a hill coming south on 68th Avenue into Allendale -- and there was a neat mix of unplowed and plowed fields. Looks like carpeting from the road. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Wandered up the back streets of the Edgewater Industrial Park in Allendale, and shot some of the fields. One had already been cleared and leveled. But I like this one with the overwintered corn stubble. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Nice backlit old fence post no longer actually holding up any fence. 84th Avenue north of M-45, Allendale. I think they plowed this field last fall, so there's already some greenish stuff. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

I tried to get one more shot after this one, but alas, the battery state was zero and the D1H wouldn't fire. The D1 Series NiMH batteries are heavy and notoriously short on life. Plus most of mine are maybe ten years old. The battery in the D1H this morning was below zero, though the clock was still running on the rechargeable backup battery, and I swapped with another in that camera bag. It lasted for what, four eclipse shots and maybe ten shots in the afternoon. Of course, I don't know if that's one of the old batteries or whether it had been a rundown battery to begin with. I see a charging session coming up -- and I may break down and use the reconditioning button and shock the buggers into holding onto a little charge. I usually keep 1 or 2 spares with me with the D1/D1X/D1H, which is what the pros used to do during the first gen era, but I only took the camera this afternoon, not the camera bag. (grin)

I need to go ahead and order the Nikon D1 E Focusing Screens, with horizontal and vertical grid lines, for the D1H and the D1X. Shooting from the driver's seat (or even leaning on canes/walker/doorways) right now it's too easy to get the horizon line off. I already installed one in the D1, the N2020 and the F4s. And the D100 and Kodak SLR/n are both based on the Nikon F80 camera, which has built-in grid lines you can turn on. The Nikon F3 just got an R screen, which has both the grid and a split-image rangefinder optimized for f3.5-5.6 lenses. Yes, Virginia, we used to have to focus our cameras by hand. Even on automatic exposure cameras from the 1980s.

Dr. Phil
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Crossposted on LiveJournal
smirking-winslet

Easter Sunday

Nothing says Easter like March Madness. Wisconsin-Duke set for the men. Notre Dame just squeaked out a win against South Carolina by one point -- early on they had led 15-3, were ahead by 12 some seven minutes to go, then they were behind. Maryland about to attempt to go against UConn -- that's one tough road on the women's side.


Mrs. Dr, Phil made up a shared basket for us and had posted some pictures from her Kindle Fire HDX on Facebook.
©2015 Mrs. Dr. Phil (All Rights Reserved)

It's family tradition that one is not only allowed to eat chocolate before noon, it's the law. So we had some Ghirardelli squares -- milk chocolate with little dark chocolate Easter basket medallion inserts. Yum. But can you believe the store DIDN'T have bags of black jelly beans? What is wrong with people?

Amazon Echo has just added Pandora, so Mrs. Dr. Phil had a Pandora channel nattering on in the background while we read the Sunday paper.

We didn't dye any new eggs this year -- didn't need to. We're getting brown eggs from someone at GVSU these days and so already had some pretty brown hard boiled eggs. (grin)


Little permanent egg display on a kitchen shelf.
©2015 Mrs. Dr. Phil (All Rights Reserved)

And then there was dinner:


Braised lamb shanks in Moroccan spices, leeks sauteed with tomatoes and black olives, couscous, garlic. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Yum. Hudsonville vanilla ice cream with brandy for dessert.

Meanwhile the peepers out back are roaring up a storm. It was 55°F today. Rains this week. The daffodils at the edge of the garage are poking up their little heads out of the ground, according to Mrs. Dr. Phil. Spring has arrived.

Easter. Rejoice.

Dr. Phil
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Crossposted on LiveJournal